Gallery wall devoted to Sam McLarnon works

Jackie McIlwaine shows artist Kenny Murtagh some of the paintings in the Sam McLarnon tribute exhibition in McIlwaine Fine Art. INLT 25-413-PR

Jackie McIlwaine shows artist Kenny Murtagh some of the paintings in the Sam McLarnon tribute exhibition in McIlwaine Fine Art. INLT 25-413-PR

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AN entire wall at a Larne art gallery has been devoted to works by the late Sam McLarnon.

The world-renowned painter was 89 when he died in March and the local art scene mourned the loss of one of its most eminent, yet self-effacing, doyens.

McIlwaine Fine Art has one of the biggest collections of watercolours and oils by the Bay Road man and now owner Jackie McIlwaine has decided that his friend of 40 years deserves a section devoted entirely to him.

“It’s a wee tribute to Sam, who was a very nice man, very humble and sincere and never wanted any fuss, but he was, after all, a local man and sometimes being local he was taken for granted. People forget that he was a member of the Ulster Watercolour Society, which is an honour in itself, and that he had the letters UWS after his name,” said Jackie.

The gallery owner said he consulted with Mr McLarnon’s family before proceeding with the tribute. It is often the case that an artist’s work increases in value posthumously and Jackie added: “I am very conscious that some people might say I’m trying to make money out of this, but the fact is that I am selling Sam’s paintings at the same price they were when he was still living and painting.

“The difference is, of course, that in the past when I sold a ‘Sam’ he would paint me another one to replace it, but when these are gone, they’re gone.”

The McLarnon Wall features up to 70 of the distinctive watercolour landscapes for which Sam was famous, along with 16 oil paintings including some early works such as a 1975 study of Portmuck harbour.

Immediately recognisable for their evocative depictions of the unrivalled beauty of the Antrim Coast - which he often described as his “studio” - Sam McLarnon’s paintings have captured the hearts of three generations of people, be they art collectors or simply the proud owners of a McLarnon that perfectly captures for them a favourite place, a special occasion, or a cherished moment.

The gallery wall features some of his most popular subjects including the Black Arch, local beaches and harbours and local places worship including historic St Cedma’s Parish Church.